maurice mandelbaum (1908-1987)



Maurice Mandelbaum was for many years a Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He specialized in the philosophy of history, writing such works as The Problem of Historical Knowledge (1938) and The Anatomy of Historical Knowledge (1977). At the same time, he also produced works on ethics (The Phenomenology of Moral Experience, 1955), epistemology (Philosophy, Science and Sense-Perception, 1964) and the history of philosophy (History, Man and Reason, 1971). When he died in 1987, his last work, Purpose and Necessity in Social Theory was going to press.


Mandelbaum defended a form of historical objectivism, affirming that knowledge of the past is possible and is in fact the byproduct of a large part of the actual activity of practicing historians. He introduced the notion of the self-excepting fallacy, according to which the supporters of relativism cannot defend their claims by the appeal to their own (positive) arguments.


Mandelbaum was influenced by gestalt psychology and was mentored by Wolfgang Koehler. Part of my work lies in demonstrating the debt of Mandelbaum to Koehler, so that the larger unity of his approach can be appreciated. Mandelbaum was always a careful thinker, never prone to aggrandized claims. This may have led to some neglect of his theories. However, recent work by Christopher Lloyd of Australia is giving Mandelbaum his due. It is no accident that Lloyd is a member of the contemporary school of "Critical Realism," centered around the personality of Roy Bhaskar, for there are important relationships between Mandelbaum's brand of radical critical realism and Bhaskarian Critical Realism.

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Bibliography of the Writings of Maurice Mandelbaum 




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